Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leafs offer Tavares 3-year deal

GM John Ferguson has struggled to make the big club better, but there's still hope for the baby Leafs. Fergie offered Oshawa phenom John Tavares a three-year contract with their AHL affiliate, Toronto Marlies.

While it would be a bold move to sign Tavares to an AHL deal, to do so might not be so easy. AHL eligibility rules match the NHL's, meaning Tavares wouldn't be able to play until the 09-10 season. It's possible but unlikely that the AHL would give Tavares an exemption (something the NHL has been unwilling to do).
That would require an amendment of the bylaw in question, which requires a vote of our board [of governors]... In my experience, the likelihood of the other 28 teams in the AHL voting in favour of allowing the other team a competitive advantage is not great.

- AHL president Dave Andrews

Assuming Ferguson pulls a rabbit out of his hat and gets the exemption, it's doubtful Tavares would except a three-year pact which leaves him in the AHL during his first year of NHL eligibility.

Clearly the Leafs hope Tavares would either refuse to sign with his eventual draft team (and, at this rate, Toronto could easily win the Tavares sweepstakes) making him a free agent in 2011, unless the Leafs successfully trade for the his rights. Or, better yet, scare other teams away on draft day by making them wait at least two years for Tavares' services.

If Tavares expresses a desire to play in the AHL, I'm sure a slew of clubs would be lining up with a deal for just next season. (Do you think the Kings were the only team willing have Sidney Crosby at their development camp?) No doubt his agent has already received calls from across the Atlantic, and that's where Tavares will likely end up if he turns pro.

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